Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying that it was insulting to call tribals or 'adivasis' as "vanvasis", and those who use that term show their ignorance.
He was speaking at a function here.
"Some people prefer to call tribals 'vanvasis' as in those who live in forests. It will not be an exaggeration if I say that it is an insult to call tribals as 'vanvasis'. They are 'adivasi'," the former Union minister said without naming anyone.
"They are the true owners of 'jal', jungle and 'zameen' (water, jungle and soil). The people who use such terms (vanvasi) show their ignorance towards adivasis as well as their efforts in preserving the jungles in this country. The credit (of preserving forests) is theirs (tribals')," he said. Yashwantrao Chavan Pratisthan, an organisation headed by Pawar on Sunday started its Tribal Welfare Centre.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been targeting the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that they have been using a "derogatory" term 'vanvasi' (forest dweller) to refer to adivasis. During a rally in Madhya Pradesh in November last year, Gandhi had said the BJP should apologise with folded hands for disrespecting tribals by calling them 'vanvasi'.
"A few days back, I heard a speech of PM Narendra Modi in which he used a new word, 'vanvasi', for 'adivasis'. It means adivasis are not the first owners of the country and that they only live in forests," the former Congress president had said.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) backs an organisation named Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram that works for the welfare of tribals.